Xi’an’s secret stone soldiers

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Proclaimed as the eighth wonder of the world and now a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Terracotta Warriors are the reason many people visit Xi’an.

I remember seeing them on Blue Peter and Newsround when I was a kid, but I didn’t know the story and wasn’t prepared for the sheer scale of the project restoring them to their former glory.

In 1974, whilst digging an irrigation channel for his crops, a local farmer made a remarkable, accidental discovery. He unearthed a secret, 13,000 strong, underground army made from stone.

Built by China’s youngest emperor during the Ching Dynasty, it was intended to protect him in the afterlife so he could maintain rule after death, guarding his legacy (which included defeating six countries and unifying china, as well as being instrumental in building the Great Wall).

Two thousand warriors have been restored to date and consist of infantry soldiers, archers, kneeling archers, Officers and Generals – complete with horses, cavalry and weapons. They are arranged in trench like tunnels and all face forward ready for battle.

Over 7,000 people were involved in building the army, but due to the Emperor’s paranoia that the secret soldiers would be discovered, they were all killed afterwards to ensure their silence. So sadly it is also one of the biggest tombs in the world.

There are three ‘pits’ altogether in a rather bizarre and very security conscious tourist attraction. All are worth a visit to see how the story unfolds, but number one is undoubtedly the best and would recommend leaving that to the last. It is also beneficial to get an English speaking guide, as very little is translated and it is not obvious what is happening.

A quite remarkable display of craftsmanship, historic restoration and paranoia. Much better in real life than on the telly!

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